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Odd Ways of Holding Instruments.

Rick Fielding 01 Aug 99 - 12:06 PM
Roger in Baltimore 01 Aug 99 - 12:31 PM
Doctor John 01 Aug 99 - 12:38 PM
Sourdough 01 Aug 99 - 12:51 PM
Margo 01 Aug 99 - 01:17 PM
Chet W. 01 Aug 99 - 03:58 PM
Rick Fielding 01 Aug 99 - 04:55 PM
Banjoman_CO 01 Aug 99 - 08:58 PM
Rick Fielding 01 Aug 99 - 11:15 PM
Jeremiah McCaw 01 Aug 99 - 11:58 PM
DonMeixner 02 Aug 99 - 01:09 AM
Margo 02 Aug 99 - 02:38 AM
bseed(charleskratz) 02 Aug 99 - 02:49 AM
murray@mpce.mq.edu.au 02 Aug 99 - 03:22 AM
Rick Fielding 02 Aug 99 - 05:25 AM
catspaw49 02 Aug 99 - 10:26 AM
Rex 02 Aug 99 - 10:45 AM
Margo 02 Aug 99 - 10:55 AM
catspaw49 02 Aug 99 - 11:06 AM
Margo 02 Aug 99 - 11:17 AM
Bill D 02 Aug 99 - 12:48 PM
Bert 02 Aug 99 - 01:18 PM
Dave Swan 02 Aug 99 - 03:18 PM
catspaw49 02 Aug 99 - 03:21 PM
Bert 02 Aug 99 - 04:13 PM
paddy 02 Aug 99 - 05:29 PM
Joe Offer 02 Aug 99 - 05:52 PM
Jeri 02 Aug 99 - 05:58 PM
bseed(charleskratz) 02 Aug 99 - 05:59 PM
j0_77 02 Aug 99 - 06:13 PM
Roger in Baltimore 02 Aug 99 - 07:03 PM
j0_77 02 Aug 99 - 08:09 PM
Rex 03 Aug 99 - 11:27 AM
Margo 04 Aug 99 - 11:23 AM
Rick Fielding 04 Aug 99 - 11:40 AM
Margo 04 Aug 99 - 12:50 PM
Art Thieme 05 Aug 99 - 10:48 AM
Jeri 05 Aug 99 - 11:11 AM
marion 05 Aug 99 - 12:36 PM
Rick Fielding 05 Aug 99 - 01:46 PM
Roger in Baltimore 06 Aug 99 - 06:31 AM
Rex 06 Aug 99 - 08:10 AM
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Subject: Odd Ways of Holding Instruments.
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 01 Aug 99 - 12:06 PM

This thought came about from reading Dr. John's post on left-handed banjo players.
I wonder how we would hold instruments if we'd seen no pictures or not been told the "right way".
Blind musicians like Kenny Hall and Freddie McKenna certainly held their mandolins and fiddles in unorthodox ways - but almost exactly like middle-eastern musicians hold them.
I've seen (folk) cellists on old movie clips hold them like guitars, and like stand-up basses.
I've often fooled arounf with playing guitar on the lap (in regular tuning) and found it very logical and quite comfortable.
Many years ago I got into the habit (when working with one (or no) mike, to bring the guitar up to a 45 degree angle, which doubles the volume, and sends the sound up into a vocal mike. From the one photo extant, it seems that Blind Lemon also did this (although he was pretty portly, so maybe it was out of neccessity). T-Bone Walker turned his guitar flat when he soloed, but I always thought that might just be a visual trick, to be different.
Any thoughts?

Rick


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Subject: RE: Odd Ways of Holding Instruments.
From: Roger in Baltimore
Date: 01 Aug 99 - 12:31 PM

Yeah Rick,

I do that 45 degree trick all the time with my guitar (see my Mudcat photo). 'Course its 'cause I'm fat (I mean "portly", such a nicer word).

Seems to me that all those "one-mike" old-timey bands held their instruments allmost under their chins to get up to that high mike. Isn't that why it's called the "high and lonesome sound"? *BG*

More seriously, when I don't have a guitar strap and I am sitting down, I hold the guitar nearly upright on my right leg so the strap button is nearly resting on the leg. The guitar faces outward at about a 45 degree angle. I tilt the guitar to the left so I can nearly rest my chin on the neck side of the upper bout. I guess this makes it allmost like playing an upright bass. It seems pretty restful and more easily controlled than laying across my lap as most people would do it.

Big RiB


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Subject: RE: Odd Ways of Holding Instruments.
From: Doctor John
Date: 01 Aug 99 - 12:38 PM

Interesting. Why do we play (or try to, in my case) the way round we do - with the right dominant hand doing the less complex work (or is it) and the left hand moving around so much. I heard tell that it originates from harp players (small ones that is - harps not players) supporting the instrument with the left hand which does nothing and playing the strings with the right; sounds a bit fanciful to me though. Dr John


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Subject: RE: Odd Ways of Holding Instruments.
From: Sourdough
Date: 01 Aug 99 - 12:51 PM

I have been trying to increase my harmonizing skills so when I am playing Autoharp, I hold the box up to my head, just above my ear so that I can hear clearly all the voices in the chord transmitted directly from the intsrument to the headbone. I know that it looks as though I am having improper thoughts about the instrument as we "neck" but it does help me with the harmonies. And, if you have ever listened to an Autoharp that way, it sounds just wonderful. The notes tumble out in clear, silvery, shimmering streams.

Sourdough


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Subject: RE: Odd Ways of Holding Instruments.
From: Margo
Date: 01 Aug 99 - 01:17 PM

Rick, I am interested in the mandolin positions, if you want to make a stab at describing them. I have a mandolin that was my grandfather's, and it has the rounded back (like a lute) and I have a terrible time trying to play it. It wants to slip out.........

I was told at song circle the other night that when I pick up my concertina, I give the impression that I am a bowler getting positioned for the throw. That's because I hold it up (about in front of my chest/neck) to let it slide down into my fingers, my thumbs endeing up in the straps and my pinkies ending up in their "cup". I never thought about it, but it must look funny.

Margarita


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Subject: RE: Odd Ways of Holding Instruments.
From: Chet W.
Date: 01 Aug 99 - 03:58 PM

I have a friend in Indiana who plays a normally strung guitar sitting flat on his lap and backwards (bass strings nearest to him, fretting with right hand - he is right handed). He's a great guitarist, that's just the way he picked it up.

Chet


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Subject: RE: Odd Ways of Holding Instruments.
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 01 Aug 99 - 04:55 PM

No problem Margarita. By the way kenny Hall played a bowl back. Just put the mandolin (tail piece down) on your left thigh with the soundboard and strings pointing to your right. You have to curl your right hand a bit (and your pick hand) but it works. I just tried it 5 minutes ago. Good luck.
Rick


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Subject: RE: Odd Ways of Holding Instruments.
From: Banjoman_CO
Date: 01 Aug 99 - 08:58 PM

This was back when I was doing the coffee house thing. I was part of a duo. I played Stand Up Bass, the other guy played guitar. On a couple of songs we had to move around the stage so I put a guitar strap on my Bass and held it horizontally. Try that for any length of time.

Fred


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Subject: RE: Odd Ways of Holding Instruments.
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 01 Aug 99 - 11:15 PM

Fred, that's something I'd pay to see!


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Subject: RE: Odd Ways of Holding Instruments.
From: Jeremiah McCaw
Date: 01 Aug 99 - 11:58 PM

Met a lady named Jo Brennan a few years back at an old time country reunion jamboree. Getting along, I believe she was in her mid-seventies at the time. She played autoharp, but I've never seen her style before or since. She had it flat against her abdomen with the treble side resting on her thigh. She used her left hand to work the chord bar and her right to strum and pick BELOW the bar - in other words what's normally considered the bottom of the instrument. Told me she never used the more modern 21-chord models. The older, or just simpler 9-chord ones worked better for her 'cause the 21's didn't have enough room for her to pick.

Amazing player, by the way. Anyone who can fingerpick the melody to "GhostRiders in the Sky" with chords that way is mighty impressive.


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Subject: RE: Odd Ways of Holding Instruments.
From: DonMeixner
Date: 02 Aug 99 - 01:09 AM

I've played Auto harp many ways when I was using it for PT after my tablesaw injury. I think that they all worked well. I would build an autoharp for a lefthanded person and then turn it upside down and play it right handed against my chest. You get more room on the strings that way and your hand s don't cross over.

Don


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Subject: RE: Odd Ways of Holding Instruments.
From: Margo
Date: 02 Aug 99 - 02:38 AM

Hmmmm.......Rick, I found that a 45 degree works as long as I have my left leg up (my foot on something, for you with wicked, wicked minds).

Margarita :o)


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Subject: RE: Odd Ways of Holding Instruments.
From: bseed(charleskratz)
Date: 02 Aug 99 - 02:49 AM

Don, that sounds like the natural way to play. I've been dreaming about a custom autoharp--a lefty now seems like a logical choice (with the chord bar buttons reversed, of course). --seed


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Subject: RE: Odd Ways of Holding Instruments.
From: murray@mpce.mq.edu.au
Date: 02 Aug 99 - 03:22 AM

Margarita. There is a specially made cushion that is made to go between the guitar and your leg to lift it up to give the same effect of putting your your leg on something. It is supposed to be better for your back than elevating one leg.

Being what was so delicately described as "fat" myself, I have always had trouble playing a guitar of normal depth. Then one day I saw a video of Bukka White. He held his national at 45 degrees (he was fat too). I tried it and it is a great position. Besides the acoustic advantages that Rick mentions, it also is a more stable way to hold the instrument. It just rests there even if you take off the pressure from your right arm. It is much easier to slide up and down the neck--at least for me. Holding it in the "western" way (waist on right thigh), I always felt that it would get away from me when I moved down the neck with all the strings unfretted. (Is there any way to describe guitar playing without double entente?)

Murray


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Subject: RE: Odd Ways of Holding Instruments.
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 02 Aug 99 - 05:25 AM

Margarita. You put your left leg up. You put your right leg down. Grab your mandolin and shake it all around. Now do the hokey pokey.
Are you sure your pointing the mandolin straight up? What Murray is describing is something different entirely.
Rick


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Subject: RE: Odd Ways of Holding Instruments.
From: catspaw49
Date: 02 Aug 99 - 10:26 AM

Seed...........ebay auction has a left handed autoharp...or they did last week. And I don't know where I read this...........and since I can't, well, to hell with it.

Spaw


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Subject: RE: Odd Ways of Holding Instruments.
From: Rex
Date: 02 Aug 99 - 10:45 AM

When playing fiddle with folks, sometimes I am following a piece I'm not too familier with. In order to hear it better and come up with nice harmony I will play the fiddle down on my arm like the old timers did. I can hear the others better without that old thing blaring in my ear. Sometimes if it's a 19th century setting I will play the fiddle on my arm anyway just because that's what they did then.

Rex


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Subject: RE: Odd Ways of Holding Instruments.
From: Margo
Date: 02 Aug 99 - 10:55 AM

Rick, now I'm not sure what you mean about straight up (no twist?):o) You must mean verticle! I haven't tried that position yet. Gee, if I could do the Hokey Pokey on roller skates as a child, you'd think I could play the mandolin.............

Rex, you reminded me of a hot shot nutty violin player at the conservatory who would clown around by playing "Orange Blossom Special while holding the fiddle behind his head. He was so funny. Is that hard?

Margarita


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Subject: RE: Odd Ways of Holding Instruments.
From: catspaw49
Date: 02 Aug 99 - 11:06 AM

Violins are made of maple, ebony, and spruce. Shoved against the back of your head, they would feel quite hard.

Spaw


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Subject: RE: Odd Ways of Holding Instruments.
From: Margo
Date: 02 Aug 99 - 11:17 AM

I suppose it depends, spaw, on how hard headed you are!

Margarita


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Subject: RE: Odd Ways of Holding Instruments.
From: Bill D
Date: 02 Aug 99 - 12:48 PM

I have slides of Howard Armstrong (of Bogen, Martin & Armstrong)...playing fiddle and mandolin behind his head..etc...he was pretty good, tooo!...maybe I'll dig those out sometime and post them...


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Subject: RE: Odd Ways of Holding Instruments.
From: Bert
Date: 02 Aug 99 - 01:18 PM

No discussion of 'Odd Ways of Holding Instruments' would be complete without looking at the second picture on this site


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Subject: RE: Odd Ways of Holding Instruments.
From: Dave Swan
Date: 02 Aug 99 - 03:18 PM

Sometimes when I'm singing really hard, my pint glass slips a little...E.S.


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Subject: RE: Odd Ways of Holding Instruments.
From: catspaw49
Date: 02 Aug 99 - 03:21 PM

Bert, let me ask you this.........How did I know what that site was BEFORE I clicked it?

Spaw


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Subject: RE: Odd Ways of Holding Instruments.
From: Bert
Date: 02 Aug 99 - 04:13 PM

'cos YOU were thinking of posting the link maybe?


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Subject: RE: Odd Ways of Holding Instruments.
From: paddy
Date: 02 Aug 99 - 05:29 PM

strangest way to hold/play that ever i've seen was a busker on Grafton Street, Dublin, couple of years ago. He played an electric guitar with the body up in the air over his right shoulder and the neck running down to his lap. He played with what appeared to me to be a "hammering on" style. Sort of reminded me of a piper. He made marvelous music.

Equally true, but far more serious, is a friend who, as a teacher, plays a lot with and for kids. He plays one of those heavy old banjos. He was in the habit of cradeling it between his legs, with the right leg (inside thigh) holding most of the weight. The weight of the instrument apparently pressed on an artery, slowing the blood flow and allowing a clot to form. end result was 6 weeks in the hospital, an ongoing regimen of blood thinners and clot disolvers, and a grotesquely swollen leg, only now, after nearly six moths, approacjhing normal size. Scary!


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Subject: RE: Odd Ways of Holding Instruments.
From: Joe Offer
Date: 02 Aug 99 - 05:52 PM

Say, how does Bill Staines play the guitar? I know he's left-handed and has an unusual way of playing, but now I can't remember what it is that he does.

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Subject: RE: Odd Ways of Holding Instruments.
From: Jeri
Date: 02 Aug 99 - 05:58 PM

I think it's a right handed guitar and he just flips it upside down.


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Subject: RE: Odd Ways of Holding Instruments.
From: bseed(charleskratz)
Date: 02 Aug 99 - 05:59 PM

Spaw, this being summer and me being only a parttimer at the teaching game, I canna engage in any serious eBay bidding (last summer I spent about a thousand bucks, but I taught summer school then). And, of course, as Mudcat has its share of fat heads [myself, of course, excluded*], there ought to be no shortage of those who could be comfortable playing a fiddle as described above.

--seed

*I'm not denying being a fathead; I just don't play the fiddle.


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Subject: RE: Odd Ways of Holding Instruments.
From: j0_77
Date: 02 Aug 99 - 06:13 PM

Saw a Guitarist/Singer in Mtn View Ark chording with his thumb - tuned the guitar to a chord, kinda odd because he sometimes held the instrument in the normal way. :)


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Subject: RE: Odd Ways of Holding Instruments.
From: Roger in Baltimore
Date: 02 Aug 99 - 07:03 PM

j0-77,

Gee, could that have been Ritchie Havens?

Big RiB


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Subject: RE: Odd Ways of Holding Instruments.
From: j0_77
Date: 02 Aug 99 - 08:09 PM

Err ...nope - don't think so.


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Subject: RE: Odd Ways of Holding Instruments.
From: Rex
Date: 03 Aug 99 - 11:27 AM

.....wha?.... Margarita asked something. Orange Blossom what? When that one comes up I usually conclude they must mean the Auld Orange Flute as the other hain't been born yet it usually being around 1830 or so. In up to date times I still leave it alone. I don't know why. One old fiddler I knew played it and claimed to have invented a particular bowing for it. The only time I play it is when someone brings it up after I've been in the rum a bit. That's also when my friend plays his banjo behind his head like you mentioned. I never do that with a fiddle. I'd be likely to hurt myself.

Rex


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Subject: RE: Odd Ways of Holding Instruments.
From: Margo
Date: 04 Aug 99 - 11:23 AM

Rex, Orange Blossom Special is a wonderful bluegrass tune (never heard any lyrics, just instrumental) about a train. The fiddle bowing imitates the train's whistle and the rhythmic chug-a-chug of the engine. It is a very high energy tune, and good for a rousing performance.

What is Auld Orange Flute like?

Margarita


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Subject: RE: Odd Ways of Holding Instruments.
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 04 Aug 99 - 11:40 AM

Margarita, The "Orange Blossom Special" was written by Chubby Wise and first recorded by the Rouse Bros. in the early forties. They sang "Looky looky yonder, comin' down that railroad track (twice) It's that Orange Blossom Special, bringin' my baby back." I first heard it by Bill Monroe.
Rick


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Subject: RE: Odd Ways of Holding Instruments.
From: Margo
Date: 04 Aug 99 - 12:50 PM

Gee, Rick. That goes to show how music evolves. I had no idea there were words!

M


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Subject: RE: Odd Ways of Holding Instruments.
From: Art Thieme
Date: 05 Aug 99 - 10:48 AM

I've got a photo (slide) I took of Bukka White on stage at the Univ. of Chicago Folk Festival playing his guitar behind his head.

Personally, I'm left handed and have always played guitar and banjo and mountain dulcimer right handed. Just felt right.

When I started to play the saw some years ago it felt correct for me to bow with my left hand and bend the saw with my right.

Does anyone know which sides of my brain I'm exercising when I do these things in the various different ways?

Art


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Subject: RE: Odd Ways of Holding Instruments.
From: Jeri
Date: 05 Aug 99 - 11:11 AM

I guess I'm technically ambidexterous. I mostly use my left hand for intricate stuff like writing and turning a screwdriver, and my right for throwing pies at people and hammering. I play right handed. I think which hand you use for what depends on if your greater strength and small muscle control are in different hands. I can't really remember where muscle control happens in the brain, or if different places handle small vs. large muscles. I know I had a problem as a kid (learning to write) with small muscle control because of some brain anomoly.


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Subject: RE: Odd Ways of Holding Instruments.
From: marion
Date: 05 Aug 99 - 12:36 PM

This spring I broke my right wrist (BEEEEP....squeal...SCRUNCH!) and the cast prevented both wrist and fingers from bending, but the ends of my fingers stuck out of the cast.

So to play guitar I would sit with my legs apart, my guitar standing on end like a cello with the back leaning against my left knee. I would prop my right elbow against my right knee and bat at the strings with my fingertips.

I couldn't do barre chords at that angle, and I couldn't separate my fingers enough to do fingerpicking properly, but when I strummed DGA songs, they sounded much the same as my normal playing. (such as it is)

I actually played an audition in this manner and got the gig. Could have been pity, could have been my amusement value, could have been the fine quality of the other musicians I proposed sharing the stage with, could have been the (correct) conclusion that playing in this manner meant I was super-dedicated to guitar, or could have been the (incorrect) conclusion that my mistakes were due to the cast.

Now I've got the cast off, but I've developed tendonitis in the left wrist now and I can't play the gig after all, or anything at all, so life generally sucks... I guess you're a real musician when you regret the loss of your fretting ability more than the loss of your handwriting ability, eh?

Love, Marion

PS And in answer to the two questions everybody asks... yes I was wearing a bike helmet, and yes the driver stopped and helped me.


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Subject: RE: Odd Ways of Holding Instruments.
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 05 Aug 99 - 01:46 PM

Marion, the vast number of musicians I know (and that's a lot) have had at one time or another serious hand miseries. It IS temporary. You will play again, and play better than you did before. I know this must be depressing, but doors open when other doors close. Try to keep smiling. This will pass!
Rick


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Subject: RE: Odd Ways of Holding Instruments.
From: Roger in Baltimore
Date: 06 Aug 99 - 06:31 AM

Marion,

This is a good time to buy a harmonica and learn to play. It won't aggravate the tendonitis and might satisfy your musical jones.

Roger in Baltimore


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Subject: RE: Odd Ways of Holding Instruments.
From: Rex
Date: 06 Aug 99 - 08:10 AM

I need to check this more often. Somebody moved all the furniture. But it looks nice Max. To answer Margarita's earlier question, the Auld Orange Flute has a melody very like Sweet Betsy from Pike without the Tureli Ureli Ureli-Aye. And I do play Mr. Wise's Orange Blossom Special on occasion. But not when it's supposed to be around 1830 or so. In the '80s I used to sit in with a group called Sashay that would play at the Bucksnort Saloon. (another story) They would pretty much sing the words that Johnny Cash recorded. It's a fun tune but it's like when I'm joining in with a bluegrass group and someone requests Foggy Mountain Breakdown after we just played it. It comes up too often.

To keep some regard to the subject, I had a friend that played the viol de gamba. Sort of a medieval cello. When he would play my fiddle, he would play it the same way. He would set that thing on his knees holding it verticle and bow it just like a cello. I think I worded that carefully enough so that Spaw won't join in the fray.

Rex


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